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Trading Stories, Working Lives: John Collins, a Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

Graham Barker continues his occupational history series with John Collins, a Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

Leicester Fish Market with 1883-4 trade directory listingWander through Leicester Market Place today and you’ll see that it’s in transition; the 1970s indoor market has been demolished, plans are in hand to create a piazza behind the Corn Exchange, and a new food hall – angled and curved in glass and steel – is set out with tempting displays of fresh fish, cheeses and cooked meats.1877 Advert for Christmas

Such change is nothing new; it’s simply the latest instalment in the history of a market that has evolved since the 13th century. John Collins – a Victorian fishmonger, game dealer and publican – also witnessed many changes hereabouts. In this article, Graham Barker delves into the archives to find out more. Click to download: John Collins, Victorian fishmonger and game dealer

John Collins at the White Swan Inn (detail)

Take a look too at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

Mary Ann Norman, Victorian laundress of Paradise Place

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

Victorian London in Photographs: Sherbert sellers, sewing schools and Shoe Lane Bridge

Victorian London in Photographs: a free exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives (5 May-8 Oct 2015)

If you’re visiting the LMA to carry out research, or you find yourself in the Farringdon area with half an hour to spare, then take a look at the Victorian London in Photographs exhibition on the first floor.

Sherbert Seller, (c) Greenwich Heritage Centre

It’s a wide-ranging topic for a small gallery space, but this carefully curated selection gives a glimpse of how photography was used by Victorians to record life in London: its architecture, streetscapes and residents. Here are just three of the selections you have in store.

Sherbert sellers and street musicians: on your way up the staircase there’s a series of street vendor photos taken between 1884 and 1887 around Greenwich. They were commissioned by Charles Spurgeon who had recently taken over the South Street Baptist Chapel; he planned to use them as lantern slides, presumably as the basis for a lecture or two. Together they convey the breadth of goods and trades once hawked around the streets. In one (above), a sherbert seller quenches the thirst of a shoeless boy who appears in several of the photos – one hopes he was given a few pennies and the odd sherbert as he accompanied the photographer on his rounds. Other images depict a celery salesman, street musicians, a ‘try your weight’ machine, and two youths selling crockery from a cart outside the London & Naval Hotel (“White Bait and Fish Dinners, Hot Joints and Poultry” proclaims the hotel signage, “Try Our Shrimps in the Garden. 9d.”)

Continue reading Victorian London in Photographs: Sherbert sellers, sewing schools and Shoe Lane Bridge